Alofa Foalima was born in Samoa and immigrated with her mother to New Zealand at the age of 12. When her mother passed away, Alofa’s sister Siava undertook the supporting role, but Alofa was placed into care when Siava became ill.

When she was placed into care, Alofa was displaced from her family and spent many years living in different rest homes in the Hawke’s Bay. Four years ago, Siava arranged for Alofa to be transferred to a rest home in Auckland so that she could be close to her family.

Phyllis Trelease, who managed the rest home in Auckland, recognised that a rest home was not the right place for Alofa and felt Spectrum Care would provide her with improved opportunities and environment. Phyllis contacted Spectrum Care and the support networks were put in place to enable a successful transition for Alofa from the rest home to Bridge Haven home in Mangere. Her family was pleased to see Alofa move into Spectrum Care adult residential services, and this transition was recognised as the first step in Alofa’s personnel growth and development.

Living at Bridge Haven opened opportunities for Alofa to develop daily living skills. Alofa enjoyed living in the house, going shopping in the community and being around people. As her personality blossomed, Alofa displayed her love for Pacific music and dance, which became a regular feature in her home.

When she first arrived at Bridge Haven, Alofa was unable to do many things for herself and required a lot of active support with daily living skills and tasks about the home. Alofa would spend most of the day observing rather than participating and her communication was difficult to understand.

According to her family, Alofa had been very independent and helped her mother with the chores at home. She was also able to communicate well in Samoan, her native tongue. Over the time she was displaced from her family, Alofa had lost much of her independence and communication skills.

As Alofa settled in to life at Bridge Haven, her support workers were able to develop ‘Outcomes’-based goals that acknowledged her wants and desires, and worked towards achieving them. To enhance identification with her Samoan culture, support workers encouraged Alofa to visit Spectrum Care homes with people who had also come from Samoa. When visiting Malae Ola, Alofa met Talavou Tavita and she started speaking with him in Samoan.

They would often be heard laughing together. Alofa was slowly regaining her language skills, her confidence and her independence. As Alofa’s support workers recognised the value of her friendship with Talavou, the friendship became one of her Outcomes goals. Alofa began visiting Talavou at Malae Ola weekly for lunch or dinner, and enjoyed the music and dance at the monthly culture nights they both attended.

When a vacancy arose at Malae Ola, Alofa was asked if she would like to move into the house permanently. Alofa chose to move in and her sister Siava supported her, so Alofa became part of the group living at Malae Ola. Alofa chose to live with people of similar ability, age, ethnic identity and with similar interests, which was an important milestone in her life.

It has been exciting for support workers to see Alofa regain her independence, make informed choices and achieve Outcomes’ goals. Alofa can now do many things for herself and has a valued social role within her home and community. She has gained confidence and recognition of who she is and what she wants, and will clearly indicate her needs, preferences and dislikes.

Alofa has joined the Cosy Club and regularly attends to socialise with friends. Ten-pin bowling and shopping are also favourites. Alofa belongs to the Cultural Pacific dance group where she attends weekly practise sessions. One of her new goals is to return to the rest home (where she lived for four years) with the Cultural Pacific dance group and perform for her friends there.

A highlight for Alofa in 2008 was attending the Spectrum Care ‘Fantasyland’ Ball, shopping for her outfit and the limousine ride to and from the ball.

Alofa and her family would like to acknowledge the following people: Masi Koneli (House Leader), Bridge Haven and Malae Ola Support Workers, Amerika Wilson (Service Manager), Vicki Quist (Service Coordinator), Louise Williams (Cultural Services), Geoff Pratt (Behaviour Support), Phyllis Trelease (Rest Home Manager), Taikura Trust and Spectrum Care Trust.

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Extraordinary Journeys
Published by Spectrum Care Trust Board